Today marks the start of the roadmap out of lockdown, as schools and colleges across Cornwall open for all learners.
For young people it is an opportunity to reconnect with friends and teachers and for parents it marks the end of juggling working and other responsibilities, alongside supporting their children with home learning.
Cabinet Member for children, public health and wellbeing, Sally Hawken, said: “The last few months have been tough for everyone, but especially for parents and young people. Being away from friends, home learning and the winter weather, has truly taken its toll.
“Take time over the next week to reconnect with people and have some fun. The return of school marks the first step on the roadmap from the lockdown restrictions; it doesn’t mean COVID has gone, but we are in a much better position to control the spread of the virus.”
Schools across Cornwall have been preparing for this day; updating COVID safety plans, implementing new strategies and ensuring that staff are kept up to date with the latest guidance from Government.
Sally said: “Some people may be worried about schools returning, but please feel reassured that schools in Cornwall are experienced at managing risk and are well practiced at keeping staff, children and their families safe in line with COVID-19 guidelines.
“If you have concerns, please discuss these with your school or college. They will be able to explain the protective measures they are using to help keep everyone safe. The most important thing you can do to help keep everyone safe is to remember that nobody should attend school if they, or anyone in their bubble, is showing symptoms of COVID.”
Each school will have their own arrangements and they will let you know about the measures they have put in place to help keep everyone safe. This could include:
- introducing a one-way system
- marking the floor to support social distancing
- putting up signs to remind everyone to wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing
- creating ‘bubbles’, or grouping children and teachers by class, or year group
- having different start and finish times, break times and mealtimes throughout the day to manage the flow of children through the school
Alongside this staff working in primary and secondary schools, along with college staff, will be asked to take two COVID-19 tests each week at home. Twice-weekly testing will also be offered to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders.
The guidelines also include offering all secondary school and college students three COVID-19 tests on their phased return to the classroom following their first negative test result. The government has requested that students then take two rapid tests each week at home.
Public Health Consultant for Children at Cornwall Council, Brian ONeill said: “Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged, and students will not be tested unless they or their parent or carer has given informed consent. Those who test positive with the Lateral Flow Tests will be asked to book in for a second test called a PCR test and told to self-isolate.
“This testing gives us a better idea on the number of cases circulating in the community and helps us to control the spread. But testing is not a silver bullet; we should all still be practising the message of hands, face and space.”
There are currently no plans to carry out regular asymptomatic testing for primary school pupils, but tests will be available for parents of primary age children.
Tests are available for adults in these households to collect from sites across Cornwall. As with student testing, this is encouraged but not mandatory.
Book a drive-through test if you're an essential worker who can't work from home
However, households of school-age children are asked simply to visit their nearest testing centre to pick up kits for themselves. There's no booking required.